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Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child (Book for Parents of a Gay Child, Transgender, Coming Out, and Readers of Always My Child)

Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child (Book for Parents of a Gay Child, Transgender, Coming Out, and Readers of Always My Child)

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Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child (Book for Parents of a Gay Child, Transgender, Coming Out, and Readers of Always My Child)

247 Seiten
3 Stunden
Apr 18, 2017


Winner of the Sixth Annual Bisexual Book Award for Non-fiction, 2017

Looking for LGBTQ books that offer guidance on providing loving support to your LGBT child?

Parents of LGBT children guide: Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child provides parents of a LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) child with a framework for helping their LGBTQ child navigate through a world that isn’t always welcoming. Author Telaina Eriksen, a professor at Michigan State University and the mother of a gay daughter, explains what she and her husband have learned through experience, including how to:

  • Deal with gay children coming out
  • Confront bullying of gay children
  • Become an advocate for gay children
  • Build a support system in a gay family

Gender and sexuality: Eriksen also covers the science on gender and sexuality and how to help a transgender child through the various stages of development. Throughout the book parents and kids who have been there, share their stories. She also directs gay family parents to various resources online to help them.

LGBTQ parents will learn…

  • How to help their child navigate locker rooms, sleepovers, proms, etc.
  • When to involve the police or school administration when it comes to bullying
  • How to advocate for local, state and national policies that protect your child
  • Ways to educate well-meaning, but misguided extended family members
  • How to help start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your child’s school
  • Strategies for keeping your child talking after he or she comes out
  • Signs of unhealthy relationships
  • When to consider therapy for your child and/or your family
  • How to find an LGBTQ-friendly community (including inclusive churches)
Apr 18, 2017

Über den Autor

Telaina Morse Eriksen was born in rural Michigan, the youngest of seven children in a working class family. She received a B.A. in journalism with concentrations in history, English, and political science from Michigan State University in 1990. She worked for many years in the educational software industry writing technical manuals, and doing marketing and public relations. She returned to school at age 39 to study for her MFA in creative writing, concentrating in both creative nonfiction and poetry. She graduated from Antioch University Los Angeles in December 2009. She has taught creative writing for the Department of English at Michigan State University for the last five years. Her work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in By One’s Own Hand: Writing About Suicide Loss (an anthology) Mother is a Verb (poetry anthology), Under the Sun, The Fem, The Good Men Project, Role Reboot, The Manifest-Station, ARS Medica, Hospital Drive, Marco Polo Quarterly, The Truth About the Fact, poemmemoirstory and in many other online and print publications. Her essays have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2010 and 2011. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan with her husband of 24 years, her 16-year-old son, and her two dogs, Sprite and Clement. (Her 20-year-old daughter drops in from college for free wi-fi and laundry once or twice a month as well.)

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Unconditional - Telaina Eriksen

Copyright © 2017 Telaina Eriksen. 

Published by Mango Publishing Group, a division of Mango Media Inc. 

Cover Design: Roberto Nunez 

Theme and Layout: Ronchon Villaester 

Mango is an active supporter of authors’ rights to free speech and artistic expression in their books. The purpose of copyright is to encourage authors to produce exceptional works that enrich our culture and our open society. 

Uploading or distributing photos, scans or any content from this book without prior permission is theft of the author’s intellectual property. Please honor the author’s work as you would your own. Thank you in advance for respecting our author’s rights. 

For permission requests, please contact the publisher at: 

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2850 Douglas Road, 3rd Floor 

Coral Gables, FL 33134 USA

For special orders, quantity sales, course adoptions and corporate sales, please email the publisher at For trade and wholesale sales, please contact Ingram Publisher Services at or +1.800.509.4887. 

Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication has been applied for. 

ISBN: (paperback) 978-1-63353-515-2  

(ebook) 978-1-63353-516-9 

Printed in the United States of America 

Table of Contents 




Author Bio


For my sister Tara and my daughter Casandra


Since I began writing this book, the United States has elected Donald Trump president. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has encouraged a federal constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage and signed a bill to jail gays in Indiana who sought marriage licenses. He wanted to divert funds from HIV prevention to conversion therapy. He opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and complained about the passage of the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill. The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked 867cases of hateful intimidation/harassment just in the ten days following the 2016 election, including attacks on LGBTQ people. What had been a challenging but optimistic time for LGBTQ people and their rights has become a potential future of rights and protections being stripped from our loved ones, as well as a deepening concern for our children’s physical safety. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know your LGBTQ child will need your love and support more than ever in these coming years.


If you’re wanting honest-to-goodness practical advice from a parent who had to figure out how to raise and support a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) child, then you’ve found it here. This book discusses all the stages of parenting an LGBTQ child from toddlerhood to adulthood, how to understand sexual orientation versus gender identity from what to do before the coming out to dating and marriage, and all directly from the experience and perspective of a real-life parent.

For me to fully endorse this book, I first need to explain a little about me. I’ve been a licensed clinical psychologist since 2008 and have worked primarily in university counseling centers and community mental health clinics in Southern California. I’ve provided individual, couples, family, and group therapy while specializing in youth, women’s issues, people of color issues, and LGBTQ issues. And much of my passion comes from my own personal experience as an LGBTQ community advocate. I came out as bisexual in 1999, and went on to co-found three bisexual organizations in Los Angeles (Fluid UCLA, amBi - LA’s bisexual social community, and the Los Angeles Bisexual Task Force), publish multiple works, attend the landmark 2013 Bisexual Community Roundtable at the White House, serve as a board member for numerous LGBTQ organizations, and teach LGBTQ-affirmative psychotherapy classes at Antioch University Los Angeles, AULA. So you could say that being an LGBTQ advocate is my second career.

In my almost two decades as a clinician and community leader, I’ve gotten acquainted with hundreds of clients and community members who are LGBTQ and coming out to themselves and their families. I’ve heard a wide range of personal stories, from the very hopeful to the very tragic. I’ve seen 13 year olds end up homeless and addicted to drugs because parents kicked them out for being LGBTQ. I’ve seen young transgender women of color becoming sex workers on the streets just to survive. And I’ve mourned the suicides of young bisexual adults and elders in my community. On the flip side, I’ve also worked with bright transgender college students who transitioned during college, kept their friends, and graduated with good grades. I’ve seen LGBTQ people go on to become successful doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, and therapists. I’ve attended beautiful same-sex weddings of friends who had parents proudly walking them down the aisle.

What makes the difference between these sad and happy stories? It starts with the parenting. Parenting based on unconditional love, which means unconditionally loving your child no matter what. No matter if your child cuts off their hair or takes on a different religion than you. You don’t necessarily have to throw them a party for it, but you still need to care for them and support them just as you would your other children. I’ve seen a lot of people save their unconditional love for romantic partners but parent their children based on conditional love. They’ve got it backwards. Romantic partners should earn your love and commitment based on agreed upon conditions. On the other hand, your children need you to stand by them no matter what. Food, shelter, safety, affection, and a feeling of belonging should never be conditional. And that’s the difference between a tragedy and a success story.

And Telaina Eriksen has got it right. I got connected to Telaina through a mutual friend, Seth Fischer, MFA, freelance writer and fellow bisexual advocate. Seth and Telaina were grad school buddies at AULA, and Seth fully vouched for her, calling her the bee’s knees. AULA connects the three of us, and since social justice is a core part of AULA’s mission, I know that anyone who chooses to go there would be passionate about social issues. She also coincidentally has a tremendous amount of lived experience, having three close family members who are LGBTQ. And Telaina’s instincts are on-point because her parenting tips are what I would recommend as a clinician since they’re based on warmth, communication, and unconditional love. Somehow she has figured it out as a mom, sister, aunt, and friend. She is also savvy on social media, which is highly timely today for millennials. And her non-sugar-coated wisdom makes her work accessible and relatable. Perhaps it’s easier to take advice from another parent who had to figure it out from scratch. Then Telaina’s your person.

How should you use this book? Use it to educate yourself on basic terms, to understand what your child might be going through, to gain awareness of your emotions and your blind spots, and to learn tools for handling adversity. The book starts out with the fundamentals of coming out and mourning your own loss, which is where you might be right now. Chapter 2 discusses LGBTQ history and very hot topics like science and religion. Read about preteens, teens, and bullying in Chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 5 is all about how YOU, the parent, can get help for yourself. She also includes information on bisexual and transgender identities, which often get left out. She discusses how to be an ally, extracurriculars, college, and dating in the latter half of the book. And each chapter includes a handy dos and don’ts list, narratives from LGBTQ people, and recommended articles, books, and videos.

This book was enjoyable, informative, and easy to consume. I learned a lot even as an experienced therapist and advocate, and I very much look forward to using it with my clients and friends. It truly reminds me why parenting is the most difficult and insomnia-inducing job in the world, but also why it could be the most deeply rewarding and ultimately the most beneficial for society: it’s about teaching people how to love. I hope you learn how to love more deeply through this book.

Take good care,

Mimi Hoang, Ph.D.

December 2016
Los Angeles, CA

Chapter 1 

Coming Out

Chances are if you’re reading this book, your child has told you that they are not heterosexual, or they might be questioning their gender or their identity in some way. Or perhaps you suspect your child might be queer, and may not know how or whether you should talk to them about their gender and/or sexual orientation. The good news is, you are living in a better time to parent your LGBTQ child than at any previous time in history. People can legally marry their same-sex partners. LGBTQ people can openly serve in our country’s military. In many municipalities throughout the United States, LGBTQ people can no longer be fired from their jobs just because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. LGBTQ people are in the media (Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Rachel Maddow) and there are positive role models of LGBTQ people in movies, television (Ellen Degeneres, LaVerne Cox, Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Cumming, and a host of others), sports (John Amaechi, Orlando Cruz, Brittney Griner), politics (Jared Polis, Mike Takano, Kate Brown), business (Tim Cook, Megan Smith), and literature (Alice Walker, David Sedaris, Rita Mae Brown, Gore Vidal). And I’m writing this book in 2016, an Olympic year, and the number of out USA Olympic athletes with inspirational stories is truly amazing. ¹

Many teens are coming out earlier and earlier, feeling safe at their middle or high schools and with their families and their friend group. Older kids (and their parents!) have access to the Internet, with its wealth of information, support, resources, and community. (Almost three-quarters of LGBTQ teens say they are more honest about themselves online than they are in the real world.)

But. But. According to research and youth surveys,² 40 percent of LGBTQ youth say they live in communities that are not accepting of LGBTQ people. LGBTQ youth are still twice as likely to be physically assaulted at school (kicked, shoved, or hit). Twenty-six percent of LGBTQ youth say their biggest problems are not being accepted by their family, being bullied at school, and fear of coming out. Ninety-two percent of LGBTQ teens say that they hear negative messages about LGBTQ people at school, on the Internet, and among their friends. In the United States, 1.6 million youth experience homelessness each year. Of that number, 40 percent of those youth identify as LGBTQ.³

According to A Healthy Chicago for LGBT Youth,⁴ LGBTQ youth were more likely to report depression and depressive symptoms, suicide attempts, and self-injury. They were more likely to be underweight and vomit to lose weight. They were more likely to report risky sex behaviors, to not have had proper HIV education, and were more likely to become pregnant (I know this seems strange, but LGBTQ youth are less likely to use a birth control method if they engage in heterosexual sex). LGBTQ youth were also more likely than their heterosexual cisgender (those who identity with the gender in which they were born) counterparts to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana. They were also more likely to experience sexual violence and victimization. The paper’s abstract concludes, Due to the presence of these disparities at such a young age, they are likely to influence the health and well-being of LGBTQ Chicagoans throughout their lifespans. I’m not a social science researcher, but I think one could easily imagine that the data in Chicago probably is a fair reflection of the rest of the United States.

That’s a lot to take in. Parenting, an enterprise already fraught with worry (breast-feeding, formula feeding, co-sleeping, sleep-training, oh my God is it normal for them to have a fever this high with an ear infection?, disposable diapers, cloth diapers, money concerns, education choices, extracurricular choices, friend drama, and always, no matter what the age, AM I SCREWING UP MY KID?) becomes doubly if not triply more fraught as your child’s risk of mental, emotional, and physical peril increase, simply because they were born different.

The good news is, parents can do a lot. They can’t do everything. We still live in a very homophobic and intolerant world, but we can do a lot. I hope this book is a resource in helping you and your child make it through this challenging time. 

The Many Different Reactions to Coming Out

Sometimes in novels, TV shows or movies, an LGBTQ child comes out to a distant parent. The distant parent stands in shock. Depending on the narrative, the distant parent hugs their child and says they love them anyway (ouch) or hits them (oh God). These are the two stories that play out the most frequently in popular culture. And like most over-used tropes, they are damaging in their simplicity, reducing real life to two not-so-good extremes. I’m not saying neither one of these things ever happen, but in addition to these two stereotypes, there are a lot of other parental reactions. Those reactions, and the consequences of those reactions, need to be discussed in a realistic (non-romanticized / non-Hollywood) way.

In many cases, your child has been thinking about coming out to you for a lot longer than you have been expecting them to come out. One of the clichés that surrounds being the parent of a gay child is that before your child comes out to you, you must have known on some level. When my daughter Casandra came out to my husband and me shortly before her 13th birthday, I did not even suspect that she was attracted to girls. My sister is a lesbian and many of my close friends are gay. Because of my relationships with them, very early in my life I realized that sexual orientation is just one small aspect of any human being. My cluelessness about my daughter’s sexual orientation wasn’t denial. Like many parents of adolescents, I just didn’t know what was going on in her head. Whatever stereotypes there are about gayness, my daughter doesn’t fit them (some kids do and some kids don’t). Casandra played with dolls. She loved Blues Clues. Her favorite Disney movie was Mulan. Casandra liked her long hair braided. She didn’t care if she wore a dress or sweatpants (now jeans and a t-shirt are her favorites). She was (and is!) my beloved little girl—not my beloved-little-girl-who-might-be-gay.

The trouble with finding support (or sharing with other parents) when your child comes out is that you might inadvertently out your child to others before they are ready. Your LGBTQ child may also have already heard horrible messages about gay people from our culture and society—even from friends, the media, or perhaps from their religious community. To add further complexity to this delicate situation, your child has probably planned this talk with you for days, weeks, maybe even months or years. They’ve been looking for the right opportunity to discuss this and you may have been oblivious. You’ve been stressed about work, worried about what’s for dinner, and trying to remember what time you’re supposed to pick them and/or their siblings up from basketball practice. So you might very well be driving them home from soccer practice or school and your preteen or teen might turn to you and say, Mom… I think I might be gay, or Dad, I’ve been questioning my gender. And yes, you could have had your suspicions. Or you could have known for sure. Or you could have not had a clue. All of these are possibilities. None of them mean you are a bad parent. And it will still be different because it will be the first time they’ve vocalized this and entrusted you with this important aspect of who they are, regardless if they are nine or nineteen.

Dead silence to the coming out pronouncement is probably your child’s greatest fear next to a screaming match. Even if you

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